Whenever I think I can’t take any more coverage of the events in Paris there’s another personal story or vital bit of information that folds me back in. I turn on the news, absorb the latest melancholy music the network has created for the present tragedy, and stay magnetized to the TV until it’s just too scary to watch.
9/11 was dark and tragic too, but this terror event feels different. Ominous, immediate, and personal. Ironic when you consider that the crimes were committed so far away. The grief seems so close you could touch it. The horror of 911 was colossal and difficult to grip until you had something personal to hold in your hand. For me it was learning about all the loving messages that fathers, sons, wives, daughters, cousins and close friends left on their cellphones to loved ones before they perished. It still hurts to think about the hundreds of whispered I Love You’s. Only the heroics and bravery of those who sacrificed their lives make it bearable.
I remember saying to my mother several years ago, “I bet you’re glad your generation didn’t experience anything as awful as what we’re going through.” She said, “Are you kidding? We lived through WWII, Duck and Cover, The Cuban Missile Crisis . . . . .” Okay, I got what she was saying. The Nazis might not have been labeled as terrorists back then but they did terrify. So did the leaders with their hands on the trigger. She said, “Shelley, every generation has something.”
I suppose in the dark ages terrorism didn’t always take human form. The perpetrator could’ve been just as cruel, unpredictable, and petrifying though. The Plague literally brought people to their knees. The ruthlessness of fervent conquerors, and the advent of relentless warfare and pillagings and programs and ethnic cleansings were equally terrifying. I just wish today’s inhumanity didn’t seem so effortless and widespread. I just wish that today’s terrorist didn’t seem so invulnerable. It’s frightening that a handful of people control the fates of so many. The gloating makes their brutality even more painful.
My daughter will probably contact me thirty years from now and ask me if I’m grateful my generation never had to experience what hers was going through. Only she’ll be contacting me from Mars, frightened and fretting over the intergalactic warfare that’s threatening her red planet. She’ll tell me that she wishes she could beam herself out of there into a safe place and time. Does any exist? Every generation has their something. I just pray our something will pass.